Page 12 - CinemaRecord Edition 3-2003 #41
P. 12

In Pursuit Of Perfection:

                                       Part 2 John Sumner Theatre

            Too often the design of
          contemporary theatres has been politely
          functional, sensibly pragmatic but
          ultimately dull, ignoring the traditions
          of energy, passion and humanity that is
          the very core of theatre.
            Strong words, and when uttered by
          architect Ian McDougall, a principal of
          the firm Ashton Raggatt and
          McDougall, as work commenced to
          create a new home for the Melbourne
          Theatre Company, it was a certainty
          that the result would not be polite,
          pragmatic or dull.
            Set alongside the Elisabeth
          Murdoch Hall, at the southern-most
          corner of the Southbank arts precinct,
          the theatre, which opened early this
          year met all expectations. Just as the
          EMH perfectly merges form and
          function as a recital venue, so the John
          Sumner Theatre is its live theatre  Main auditorium July 2008. Wall lighting is a feature of the finished work.
                                            Eight dressing rooms accommodate up  landmark additions to the tapestry of
            Ian McDougall has described the
                                            to 22 performers. Six of these rooms  the south bank arts precinct.
          500-seat theatre as ‘the finest and most
                                            will serve the main theatre, and two the  Let architect Ian McDougall have
          flexible proscenium arch theatre in
                                            adjoining studio theatre.          the last word. “The building is
          Australia.’ The maximum stage opening
          possible is 27metres. To understand the  The main auditorium is named in  stridently Melburnian, continuing the
          opportunities this offers a director, the  honour of John Sumner, who founded  city's tradition for outstanding buildings
          proscenium width at the Regent Collins  the Union Theatre Repertory Company  - striking yet subtle, magical and
          Street is 14metres (although the actual  at the University of Melbourne in 1953.  sensual, intelligent, a place of sound
          stage width is 31metres.)         Fifteen years later it became the  and action.” ★
                                            Melbourne Theatre Company,
            The building includes the Lawler
                                            Australia’s first professional company.  Opposite: Boldness be my friend. An
          Studio, a rehearsal room/studio and
                                            John Sumner was MTC director until  access stairway (turn page sideways) to
          performance space for experimental
                                            his retirement in 1987.            the auditorium.
          works, which can seat 160.
            In the case of the Elisabeth       The Lawler Studio is named after  Turn to the back cover for more pictures
          Murdoch Hall, much was made of the  playwright Ray Lawler, whose Summer  of this exciting building.
          fact that the inspiration for the design was  of the Seventh Doll, and other works,
          an actual European concert hall, but  gave voice to the rich possibilities
          interestingly, there was no       inherent in home-grown drama.
          acknowledgment from the architects of  Well, how does the reality of the
          any antecedent for the new theatre.  new theatre measure up to the promise?
          Perhaps this meant that Australia's history  It is a fine tribute to the input of the
          of theatre architecture has produced a  current MTC Director Simon Phillips
          sufficient number of fine examples (even  and the architects.
          if many of them were now just the    Both the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall
          original plans) that the principles needed  and the MTC Project took out the top
          to ‘get it right’ were well known.  awards at the Australian Institute of
            As might be expected, all aspects of  Architects, Victorian Architecture
          the stage fit-out are state of the art. The  awards on July 10.
          mechanics include a 60-line powered  The two buildings won the Victorian
          flying system, each line capable of  Architecture Medal, the William
          carrying a load of up to half a tonne.  Wardell Award for Public Architecture
          Within the stage lighting system there  and the Joseph Reed Award for Urban
          is a choice of 750 dimmer outlets.  Design. The judges said that both were  The EMH and MTC building cover the area
                                                                               between Sturt and Dodds Streets.

          12  2009 CINEMARECORD
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